A few years ago, when I was single and desperate to find a boyfriend, I asked my friend Amy if she thought my blog made me undatable. She didn’t have an answer, but she did share an anecdote. After Amy and her friend Max met me at a book party in SoHo, she received an email from a friend expressing his surprise that we had become friends. “You and Max are like Statler and Waldorf, heckling from the audience,” Amy’s friend wrote to her. “Tyler Coates is like Miss Piggy, preening on the stage.”
It was not the first time I had been accused of oversharing. I have been writing about myself online in some form since graduating from high school in 2001. My first attempts at blogging were on OpenDiary.com and Diaryland.com, two sites that focused more on journaling than writing for an audience, although there were clear social aspects to both. Then there was LiveJournal in college (my friends were the only people who read that one) and, post-graduation, Blogger. After joining Tumblr at the beginning of 2008, I used it as more of a scrapbook, casually posting and reblogging pictures and songs. But a year in, I changed my pseudonymous username to my own. Suddenly, because I was writing under my own name — my first byline, really — the criticisms changed. Even though I was hardly anonymous on my earlier blogs, my Tumblr had some deliberate accountability because my name was attached.
Mixed in with the Liz Phair MP3s and pre-selfie-era selfies were brief posts about my feelings and emotions — two things that are never supposed to be put on the internet, I learned.
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The communal nature of Tumblr offered some solace and support. I made a lot of friends based on the mutual pop-culture interests we were writing about, and a lot of those people crossed the email boundary and offered me emotional support.
At the first Tumblr meetup I had ever attended, in Chicago in 2009, organized by a group of users who barely new each other offline, strangers told me how they found it inspiring that I would write about things they would never share on the internet. Oversharing never felt like the appropriate word for what I did—it really is such an overused and misunderstood phrase. To overshare means simply to share anything the reader might not share him or herself. Our personal boundaries are subjective, so the term serves to attack a writer for doing what the accuser wouldn’t: revealing something personal, something that makes the reader vulnerable. It carries with it the resentment that the person doing the revealing isn’t embarrassed, even though the reader thinks the writer should be.
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I have what I call my 80/20 Rule, a theory based entirely on presumption and not at all mathematical. (If I were good at math, I’d be in a different business.) The premise is essentially this: Everything you know about someone based on what they put on the internet represents about 20 percent of who he or she really is, while the other 80 percent is not actually present in that online persona. On the other hand, the 20 percent you put out there can be perceived as 80 percent of your inner life, maybe even more.
Link to the rest at Medium
PG suggests the possibility that, just as some people are socially awkward offline, some people are socially awkward online as well.
That said, does it really matter?
If an author is promoting his/her work online, social awkwardness could cause some problems, but there are so many different examples of successful online promotion that adapting them for an author’s business purposes is one alternative. Another alternative might be to create an online persona in the same manner an author creates an interesting character.
PG has been on the internet for over 30 years and has seen what might be an analog for community standards develop over time, then pretty much disappear as the number of online interactions increased and communities proliferated to the point where you can pretty much find any sort of community (with accompanying standards) you might like.